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Gallery Text

This nocturnal scene derives from the Book of Genesis, in which Jacob, on his journey to Canaan, wrestles with an angel. Condemning Delacroix’s famous 1861 painting of the biblical passage, Moreau wrote that his illustration of the scene more accurately conveyed the futility of Jacob’s battle, as he fights an invisible and infinitely more powerful foe.

Moreau’s monumental canvases have been interpreted as allegories of contemporary politics, and the struggle between human and moral strength in this painting could allude to Moreau’s strident reaction to the brutal conflicts of 1870–71. These included the Franco-Prussian War, in which he fought as a soldier. When this painting was presented at the Exposition universelle of 1878, it functioned on an additional allegorical level. It was part of a trio of works — including The Infant Moses, in the adjacent gallery, and David — that symbolized the three ages of man.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1943.266
People
Gustave Moreau, French (Paris 1826 - 1898 Paris)
Title
Jacob and the Angel
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
1874-1878
Culture
French
Location
Level 2, Room 2100, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Centuries of Tradition, Changing Times: Art for an Uncertain Age
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
sight: 254.7 x 145.3 cm (100 1/4 x 57 3/16 in.)
framed: 293.3 x 183.6 x 8 cm (115 1/2 x 72 5/16 x 3 1/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l.: Gustave Moreau
  • stamp: verso of canvas, black ink, stamped: [stamped twice, in oval shape:] Anc'ne M'son ANGE OTTOZ / Henry et [ ] Sner / Mds de Couleurs Fines / Paris / 2 R. de la Michodiere
  • inscription: verso of canvas, black paint, handwritten: Jacob et l'Ange - Gustave Moreau -
  • inscription: bar of stretcher, black crayon: 392 [ ] M
  • label: bar of stretcher, black ink, printed: 23.634 ["2" written over in graphite to be a "1"]
  • label: bar of stretcher, black ink, printed: 23.281
  • label: bar of stretcher, black ink, printed: 12.415
  • stamp: back of canvas, black ink, stamped: Douane stamp [also one on bar of stretcher]
  • inscription: bar of stretcher, graphite: [monogram; see curatorial file.]
Provenance
Gustave Moreau, 1878, sold; to Marie Raffalovich, 1878, sold; [to Galerie Georges Petit, Paris] sold; to the Vicomte de Curel, sold; to [Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, France], sold; to Charles Guasco, Paris, sold; [his estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 11, 1900, no. 58] sold; to Paul Gillibert, bequest; to his niece, Mme. de Saint-Péreux. Baron de T., sold; [his estate sale, Galerie Lambert, Nice, February 15, 1934] sold; [to Jacques Seligmann & Co., New York, NY, (February 15, 1934 - March 27, 1934)] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York, NY, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
1943
Object Number
1943.266
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Ary Renan, "Gustave Moreau", Gazette des Beaux-Arts (May 1886), ser. 2, 33, pp. 377-94, pp. 378-379

Ary Renan, "Gustave Moreau", Gazette des Beaux-Arts (July 1886), ser. 2, 34, pp. 35-51, p. 42

Paul Leprieur, "Gustave Moreau et son Oeuvre", L'Artiste (March - June 1889), 59, no. 1, p. 37

[Unidentified article], Gazette des Beaux-Arts (1899), vol. XXII, p. 65

Ary Renan, Gustave Moreau, Gazette des Beaux-Arts (Paris, France, 1900)

Vente Charles Guasco, auct. cat., Galerie Georges Petit (Paris, France, June 11, 1900), no. 58, repr.

Exposition Gustave Moreau au profit des oeuvres du travail et des pauvres honteux, exh. cat., Galerie Georges Petit (Paris, France, 1906), cat. no. 62

Jean Laran and Léon Deshairs, Gustave Moreau, Librairie centrale des beaux-arts (Paris, France, 1913), pp. 78, 81-82, repr. p. 82

Fernand Romanet, "Gustave Moreau (à propos de son centenaire)", La Revue Hebdomadaire (April 17 1926), pp. 310-330, p. 324

Ragnar von Holten, L'Art Fantastique de Gustave Moreau (Paris, France, 1960), repr. no. 66

Germain Seligman, Merchants of Art, exh. cat., Appleton-Century-Crofts (New York, NY, 1961), p. 149

Julius Kaplan, Gustave Moreau, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA, 1974), pp. 43-44; fig. 27

Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Gustave Moreau: with a catalogue of the finished paintings watercolors, and drawings, New York Graphic Society (Boston, MA, 1976), no. 170, repr. p. 134, mentioned p. 134

Jean Selz, Gustave Moreau, Crown Publications (New York, NY, 1979), pp. 53, 56

Julius Kaplan, The Art of Gustave Moreau: Theory, Style, and Content, U.M.I. Research Press (Ann Arbor, MI, 1982), pp. 9, 69-72, 74, 92, 95; repr. in b/w fig. 55

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 121, repr. as no. 323

Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Gustave Moreau, Flammarion (Paris, France, 1991), no. 197, p. 99

Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Gustave Moreau, Flammarion (Paris, France, 1994), pp. 137-138, repr.

Gustave Moreau: Gyusutavu Moro, exh. cat., Nihon Hoso Kyokai (Tokyo, Japan, 1995), p. 126-127, repr. b/w

Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau: Maître Sorcier, Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 1997), pp. 55, 58, 59, 98, repr. p. 59

Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau, 1826-1898, exh. cat., Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 1998), under no. 76, n. 1

Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Gustave Moreau: L'assembleur de rêves (Courbevoie, 1998), p. 102, repr. p. 104

Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Gustave Moreau: Monographie et nouveau catalogue de l'oeuvre achevé, ACR Édition (Paris, France, 1998), no. 199, p. 336, repr.; repr. in color, p. 74

Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau: between Epic and Dream, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1999), under no. 76, n. 1, p. 288

Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau: Magic and Symbols, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1999), pp. 55, 58, 59, 98, repr. p. 59

Chikashi Kitazaki and Mina Oya, ed., Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Ueno, 2002), pp. 190-191, cat. #54, color repr.

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), no. 96, pp. 242-245, repr. in color

Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), no. 96, pp. 252-255, repr. in color

Suzanne Singletary, "Jacob Wrestling with the Angel: A Theme in Symbolist Art", Nineteenth-Century French Studies (spring-summer 2004), vol. 32, nos. 3/4, pp. 298-311, pp. 304, 305; repr. as fig. 2

Jodi Hauptman, "Beyond the Visible", exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York, NY, 2005), p. 27, repr. in color as fig. 11

Narayan Khandekar and Stephan Wolohojian, "Gustave Moreau's 'Jacob and the Angel' Re-examined", The Burlington Magazine (April 2005), vol. CXLVII, no. 1225, pp. 253-257, pp. 253-257, repr. in color as fig. 44

Rachel Sloan, "Gustave Moreau and the Raffalovich family: new documents for 'Sappho'", The Burlington Magazine (May 2006), CXLVIII, pp. 327-331, p. 328

Peter Cooke, Gustave Moreau: History Painting, Spirituality and Symbolism, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2014), pp. 96, 97, 102, 104, repr. p. 103 as fig. 81

Exhibition History

Exposition Universelle, 1878, [Unknown venue, Paris], 05/01/1878 - 10/31/1878

Exposition décennale de l'art français, [Unknown venue, Paris], 01/01/1889 - 12/31/1889

Exposition Gustave Moreau au profit des oeuvres du travail et des pauvres honteux, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 01/01/1906 - 12/31/1906

Moreau and Monticelli, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 05/13/1960 - 06/08/1960

Pre-Raphaelite and Early French Symbolist Art in the Fogg Collections, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/16/1973 - 02/25/1973

Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 09/14/2002 - 12/08/2002

A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 03/15/2003 - 05/26/2003; National Gallery, London, 06/25/2003 - 09/14/2003; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004

For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004

32Q: 2100 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu